In early May, battle commences in the ECB premier leagues (and equivalent competitions). From Scotland to Cornwall and from East Anglia to the West of Ireland, the strongest clubs in the British Isles will be fighting for local glory. Among the sides to watch will be Smethwick, in the Birmingham Premier League, who have signed Mohammad Yousuf (above) as their new overseas player, and Eastbourne in the Sussex Premier League, where the newly retired James Kirtley may turn up on a Saturday morning to run in and bowl at his former teammate Monty Panesar, who will spend a few matches of the season batting in the top three for Three Bridges. Whichever your local club though, TWC’s regional correspondents have picked their favourites in every competition. Here are the teams to watch in your area this season.
Midlands previews, from Paul Bolton
Birmingham and District Premier
Former Pakistan batsman Mohammad Yousuf will join Smethwick after his county stint with Warwickshire is over and paceman Mohammad Akram will be available all season.
Ockbrook & Borrowash were runners-up last year but the experience of captain Kevin Dean might give them the edge over defending champions Lullington Park who have decided not to employ an overseas player.
There is plenty of strength in depth at Loughborough Town, including seamer Tom Wells, son of England rugby assistant coach John, and his Leicestershire academy team-mate, slow left-armer James Sykes.
North Staffordshire and South Cheshire
The former county seamer AJ Harris has signed for Hem Heath and Staffordshire batsman Ben Maguire has moved to the club from Knypersley. Left arm spinner Mo Hussein is back after a season with Leek.
Nottinghamshire Cricket Board Premier
Clifton Village are going for a hat-trick of titles but have lost Nottinghamshire seamer Luke Fletcher and last year’s captain Simon Roberts to Papplewick & Linby.
A strong challenge expected from last season’s Second Division champions, Pedmore, who have retained Indian batsman Nitin Malhotra and recruited busily during the winter.
North West previews, from Andrew Collomosse
Nantwich, last season’s winners, replace Sussex-bound pro Luke Vincent with Queenslander Glen Batticciotto and will be the team to beat once more.
Lytham overcame a sluggish start to win the 2010 title and instituted a winter fitness regime to make sure they are quicker out of the blocks this time.
Champions Leyland will be strong but Barrow, runners-up in 2010, could go one better and land their first title since joining the league in 2004.
Farnworth, 2010 champions and Lancashire Cup winners, have strengthened a winning squad and retained key pro Adil Nisar in their pursuit of a 13th title.
In 2010, Milnrow finished runners-up and also lifted the Wood Cup. They should lead the challenge to champions Norden.
With an inspirational skipper in Jon Fielding and front-line pro in Kiwi Shanan Stewart, Ramsbottom have the firepower to win a second successive title.
North Lancs & Cumbria
The heart says Cockermouth, back home after playing all their games away last year following the 2009 floods, but the head says Furness will complete a hat-trick.
North East previews, from Bob Crosby
North East Premier
Look to South Northumberland, narrowly runners–up to Chester-le Street (only nine points in it in 2010), to regain their crown. Benwell Hill are an outside bet.
The league has stated its intention to form a second division but for the time being in the top flight, the champions, Boldon, look good again. Fifty years separated their last consecutive championship victories but they could go back-to back this summer. Kimblesworth are the new boys, coming up as champions of the Durham County League after winning a play-off. They replace Marsden.
Northumberland and Tyneside Senior
Few would bet against Swalwell making it five titles in a row but keep an eye on Shotley Bridge.
North Yorkshire & South Durham
Watch out for Marton, last year’s runners-up and champions for the first time the year before. The club has signed good local talent including Neil Russell from rivals Guisborough. Newly promoted Barnard Castle, joining the elite for the first time, look to their new professional Gary Pratt, Ricky Ponting’s 2005 Trent Bridge run-out nemesis, who will also continue with Cumberland minor county, for whom he averaged more than 50 last season.
Yorkshire previews, from Andrew Collomosse
This is the toughest league in the area to win and the hardest to call as the wolf pack hunts down 2010 champions Pudsey Congs. East Bierley are fancied for a first crown since 1996 but it’s bound to be close.
Unbeaten last year, champions Wrenthorpe have the depth to go all the way again with Methley as their most likely challengers.
Champions Honley, with four titles in five seasons, will be the team to beat but ambitious Hoylandswaine, who only joined the league in 2009, pose a threat.
Whitley Hall finally lost their nearly men tag last year and will start favourites but Whiston PC have recruited strongly and will relish their status as a dark horse.
Can anyone deny York a fifth successive title? Probably not. But Barnsley or Scarborough could push them with a little more consistency.
Eastern review of 2010, from Josh Burrows
East Anglian Premier
Cambridge Granta snuck the title from Saffron Walden by thre points. The 2009 champions, Vauxhall Mallards finished fourth with the 2010 national T20 champions Swardeston coming in third. Impossible to pick a favourite from any of the above.
Lincolnshire Cricket Board Premier (by Anne Boulton)
With Pakistan quickie Fahad Masood, who topped the wickets table in 2010, returning for a second season, current champions Bourne are the strongest contenders.
Finedon Dolben took a ninth title in 12 years but Peterborough were unfortunate to lose out despite being level on points. The title went to the side with more victories, meaning the Peterborough boys will be out for revenge this year.
Home counties review of 2010, from Josh Burrows
Home Counties Premier
Henley became only the second club to successfully defend a league title.
In an open and competitive league, Reigate Priory held off last year’s national T20 semi-finallists, Wimbledon, while the 2009 league champions, Sutton, finished third from bottom.
National club 45-over champions, Ealing were dominant on their home patch once again. A win in 2011 would secure them their seventh championship on the bounce.
Jonathan Walford topped the batting average for Brentwood with 823 runs, while Max Osborne, who made his County Championship debut for Essex in September, topped the bowling with 35 wickets.
South East previews, from Michael Vimpany
Bromley and Hartley Country Club, who have dominated Kent cricket in recent seasons, are again expected to excel. Elsewhere St Lawrence & Highland Court have been demoted for failing to attain ECB ClubMark accreditation meaning Lordswood earned a reprieve.
South African keeper-batsman Chris Cooke, who helped Bournemouth win the league in 2010, has joined Glamorgan and skipper Craig DeWeymarn is now Hampshire’s full-time physiotherapist. However, the side’s bowling attack, spearheaded by Dorset Minor Counties Championship winner Matt Metcalfe, remains strong. Totton & Eling have been rocked by a mass exodus of players and may struggle to survive, leaving South Wilts or Bashley (Rydal) as potential challengers.
Monty Panesar will play at Three Bridges for a few games, with the newly-retired James Kirtley available for Eastbourne, but Preston Nomads are strong enough to remain favourites despite losing Sussex hopefuls Jack Parsons and Hugh Richards, who may have felt they would get a better game by moving away from the Fulking club.
West of England review of 2010, from Josh Burrows
Paul CC beat the 2009 champions St Just into second place thanks to 54 wickets from Matt O’Leary and 51 from Justin Stephens, who also topped the batting with 535 runs.
The strongest bowling side in the league retained their title. Sidmouth’s Will Murray took 50 wickets while Josh Best, Matt Cooke and Neil Hancock all finished among the league’s top 10 bowlers.
West of England
Bath went unbeaten without stand-out performances from any one player. James Campbell topped the batting with 842 runs, Simon Marchant the bowling with 29 wickets.
Ireland previews, from David Gash
Cork County dominated last year, losing only three games. With South African all-rounder Bruce Koch at the helm this season, it will be hard to look past them for this year’s title. But Midleton, last year’s runners-up, should be hot on their heels.
North County secured their fifth title in eight years last season hope to continue their winning streak. If Railway Union’s World Cup hero Kevin O’Brien is available, his side will be a tough to beat.
Northern Cricket Union
Only six points separated the top three last season with North Down just piping Waringstown. But watch out for Lisburn who have shown that they are a serious contenders over the last few seasons.
North West Cricket League
Very little separates the top seven sides, with any team capable of beating the others on their day. But given their consistency over the last number of seasons, Strabane are the favourites.
Scottish preview, from Gary Heatly
Third in the top flight last season, the Dunfermline Knights have strengthened over the winter with the signing of Kiwi Test player Daniel Flynn as pro. They have also brought in the likes of Kevin McLaren and Cam Farrell which could be enough to take the title to Fife.
Wales 2010 review, from Josh Burrows
North Wales Premier
Llandudno became runaway winners, drawing once, losing once and, with 512 points, gained 153 more points than closest rivals Bangor.
A third title in four years for the 2004 Village Cup winners, Sully Centurions. They also beat Ammanford in the final of the 2010 Welsh Cup.